Friday, May 10, 2013

Playing Games: Majora's Mask

I can't get off my Zelda kick.  Currently playing Majora's Mask.  Of course, the Zelda series is incredible for its use of music.  Ocarina of Time began a new level of importance with the integration of audio in the game and so far Majora's Mask has only raised the bar to a new level.  Here are my favorite musical moments so far:

Playing the Song of Time in reverse slows down the passage of time in the game.  Normally when you learn a new song in The Ocarina/Majora's Mask/Twilight Princess portion of the game, it's presented to you and practiced.  Instead, with this melody, you're just told that this melody can be reversed and you have to work that out for yourself.  Even if one just thinks of this as patterns of pushing the controller buttons, they've in effect made the game controller into a musical instrument and asked you to think about the pattern of the music.  This is a new level of engagement with musical thinking than the Zelda games have asked of the player before.  Awesome.

When you break into the Monkey's cell in the Deku Palace and he teaches you the Sonata of Awakening, he has to sing it to you softly so that you're not discovered.  Of course, you end up playing too loud and the Deku do hear you, but still, this is clever.  As a person who's played and loved Ocarina of Time, I was expecting the songs in the sequel to be taught in a similar way.  The songs in Ocarina are all taught in a patter: the game presents the song by playing it for you twice, then you play it back.  This happens very routinely and at a regular volume, not typically in a stressful situation.  However, in this case, the song is whispered secretly to you.  I appreciate the realism of this moment.  It breaks up the routine of learning the songs.    I love the Sonata of Awakening!

One of the other best things about these games is that you learn the melody to the songs without hearing the accompaniment.  It's hard to guess what the harmony and meter of the song will be from the initial melody only presentation.  As soon as I learned it in the game, Vince said that the harmony changes sounded so stereotypical for Zelda.  I think it's the G to Bb, IV-bVI, progression that makes it sound Zelda-esque.  Some how that chromatic mediant feels like Koji Kondo.  I'll have to think more about what I mean by that as I continue to reflect on his music...